What does it mean to “experiment” in the study of history, literature, or philosophy? In answering that question we draw inspiration from two distinct spaces. First, the laboratory, where scientists bracket the world in search for independent variables and reproducible results. Second, the studio, where artists let the world in: to disrupt rigid modes of perception under circumstances that are always indeterminate and subjective. In both spaces, thought is secreted in practice, “on the fetid and throbbing ground of life.”1
The Columbia group for experimental methods in the humanities is dedicated to the rapid prototyping of speculative ideas. To this end, we collect, curate, and publish intermediary artifacts of scholarship: drafts, notes, graphics, twitter bots, web-protocols, “situations,” tools, and tutorials that take us some way from unstructured thought to accepted knowledge. Some of these artifacts are presented as is, others will be peer-reviewed (and clearly marked as such).
Somewhere between a lab experiment and experimental art, we hope to open a space for process-based scholarship, “to be judged not on its success or failure, but simply as an act the outcome of which is unknown.”2 Theory and method—the how and the why—attain their full expressive potential in dialogue.3
Bernard, Claude (1865). Introduction à l’étude de la médecine expérimentale. Paris. ↩
John Cage as quoted in Nyman, Michael (1974). Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Cambridge, UK. ↩
In consideration of Felski, Rita. “From Literary Theory to Critical Method.” Profession, 2008, 108–16 and Feyerabend, Paul K, and Ian Hacking. Against Method. London: Verso, 2010. ↩